Officially opened on Heritage Day 2019, the Javett-UP Art Centre at the University of Pretoria is an exciting new museum that promises to become a new “home to the art of Africa”. A partnership between the philanthropic Javett Foundation and the University of Pretoria (UP), the impressive Javett-UP is one of the largest new art museums to open in South Africa in recent years, with an exciting mandate that seeks to engage students and the public with the creativity and diversity of African art, from the ancient to the contemporary.
The museum's art collection includes a very impressive and expansive selection of 20th Century South African art from the private collection of philanthropist and museum founder Michael Javett, as well as dozens of large-scale iconic South African artworks on loan from private, public and corporate collections including works by major South African names such as William Kentridge, Mary Sibande, Sam Nhlengethwa, Gerard Sekoto, Irma Stern, Jackson Hlungwane, Cristo Coetzee and Penny Siopis.
Among the museum's largest signature works are Alexis Preller’s Discovery, a formidable work that hasn’t been seen in public in over 30 years. The massive painting, which was completed in the 1960s and spent decades hidden away inside a government building in central Pretoria, is undergoing live conservation in situ at its new home inside the museum. One floor above and directly behind Preller's contentious frieze (which was commissioned and painted during the peak of the apartheid era), is a magnificent tapestry from 2014 by Keiskamma Art Project. Styled after Picasso's Guernica and created by this art collective from the rural Eastern Cape, the tapestry details the extraordinary pain and devastation wrought across the region during the height of the HIV/AIDS crisis.
Javett-UP also celebrates Africa's ancient art history in the high-tech Gold of Africa wing which has provided a spectacular new home for the iconic gold rhino, leopard and other priceless treasures from the precious Mapungubwe collection. The new Gold of Africa gallery offers visitors a unique, interactive view of the thriving Mapungubwe civilization that served as a sophisticated trading centre from around 1200 to 1300 AD in what is now northern Limpopo and is complemented by a glittering exhibition one floor below of intricate gold decorations and accessories from West Africa.
Although the Javett calls itself an 'Art Centre', don't be fooled into thinking that this is somehow just another gallery or art institute. The Javett is a fully-fledged art museum in the very best sense of the word. Exhibits are accompanied by extensive educational materials, there are screening rooms and guided art walks and enough items to look at to keep you occupied for a few hours. With fascinating art exhibitions exploring a variety of themes, spread over a dozen halls, Javett-UP is an essential day trip from Joburg for anyone interested in art.
The Javett Art Centre at UP is located on Lynwood Rd (close to the Roper Street entrance to the University of Pretoria campus). Coming from the direction of Hatfield look out for a pedestrian bridge crossing the road, the museum will be on your left. The easiest way to get here from Joburg is to take the Gautrain to Hatfield station, on weekdays you can catch the Gautrain bus from the station direct to the museum. Last entrance into the Javett-UP is at 16:30.